Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Who is like You?

This morning, I was thrown into the water... or rather, my son was. I was on the other side of a glass wall, watching. This morning my son took his first swim lesson without me similiarly suited up, cheering wildly at every purposeful gurgle of bubbles or kick of legs.

I normally pride myself on my mommy-restraint. I don't have existential fits about leaving him with a babysitter. I want him to go forth and experience the world. Still, this qualifies as his first foray into the world where mom isn't in charge and must sit on the sidelines.

I think my girlfriend must have thought I was nuts. Every time he started to wander away from the ledge where he was to wait while his friend practiced with the teacher, I fidgeted, called his name. It became embarrassing that I was unable to stymie this knee-jerk response. My son would look over to me, sometimes eliciting a wave. He obviously understood that I was separated. Apparently, I didn't.


Cognitive dissonance. Simply said, it's when something that rubs you the wrong way. Makes you experience psychological discomfort.

Apparently, not only do we feel this on an individual basis, but on a collective one as well. On a psycho-social level, like attracts like. Like moves to the suburb. Likes follow. I blog, and I like your blog because we think alike, so I link to you. You link to others that think like we do. We are all hard-wired, apparently, to avoid situations where we are the clear minority.

This new NYTimes blog called "Our Lives as Atoms: On the Physical Patterns that Govern Our World", Mark Buchanan (a theoretical physicist) talks in his first post about how both racial segregation, and the whole red state/blue state dynamic of the blogosphere come into being and perpetuate themselves. As he says:
This spontaneous segregation of opinions on the Web is one example of a social outcome that really has very little to do with individual human intentions, and more to do with patterns that arise automatically through natural feedbacks. We often don’t see these feedbacks, but they can strongly influence our lives
Yes, I think. Are such preferences hard-wired? You betcha. Can we do something about them when they become so divisive as to make us want to throw the other (political) half into the ocean? Perhaps. Knowing what hand you've got is the first step to doing something about it. Perhaps we're all not so different after all, we're just not talking to anyone else.


An X by any other name would smell as sweet...

And with mother's day just around the bend, perhaps it's time to shed some light on the almighty X chromosome and what she does for us. That's just what Natalie Angier does in her ode to the X called "For Motherly X Chromosome, Gender Is Only the Beginning". She starts with a job description:
Must be exceptionally stable yet ridiculously responsive to the needs of those around you; must be willing to trail after your loved ones, cleaning up their messes and compensating for their deficiencies and selfishness; must work twice as hard as everybody else; must accept blame for a long list of the world’s illnesses; must have a knack for shaping young minds while in no way neglecting the less glamorous tissues below; must have a high tolerance for babble and repetition; and must agree, when asked, to shut up, fade into the background and pretend you don’t exist.

It turns out, this is not only a damned good description of what moms do, but also what the X chromosome does. Since the Y chromosome is primarily responsible for sex differentiation, the X has to pick up the slack in most all ways.

Therein lies the struggle of the mother and the X: We must be all things to all people, and all things to ourselves. It's an onus that is the cause for myriad and sundry bitching. It is also something we wouldn't (and couldn't) trade for the world.

1 comment:

Nick W. said...

"Perhaps we're all not so different after all, we're just not talking to anyone else."

Amen, sistah! That is probably the most concise summary of a problem that grates on me regularly that I have yet to read. It's the echo chamber effect.

It's why I make a point of visiting blogs and websites that I know generally have viewpoints different from mine. The tricky bit is keeping an open mind and being able to separate the good thinking from the regurgitated talking point garbage-- and that goes for all sides of everything. Including my own thoughts and writings.